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Movie Review: 'Stoker'


Starring Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Matthew Goode
Directed by Chan-wook Park
Rated R


I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what to think of Stoker.  And as I start writing this review, I don’t know if I should give it One Abiding Dude or Four Abiding Dudes.  Is the movie shot in a way that is wholly unique to its director Chan-wook Park?  Yes.  Does the story grab your attention with an interesting and somewhat creepy premise?  Yes.  Is the movie anti-climatic?  Yes.  Does that work against the movie?  You better believe it does.

If you’re not familiar with the name Chan-wook Park, then maybe you’re familiar with some of his earlier work:  Oldboy, Thirst and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance?  If you haven’t seen any of those movies I highly recommend them (especially Oldboy which has one of the best, most effed up reveals ever put on film).   Stoker is his first American film and with some foreign directors, there can be this odd transition when making an American film.  But that isn’t the case with Stoker, as Park knows how to effectively play out his story when it comes to is audience.  But maybe some of the blame should go to screenwriter Wentworth Miller for not properly building the tension they way it needed to be built.  Maybe, Park, who was responsible for the screenplays on the films I mentioned above, taken a crack at the screenplay.  I think it would’ve helped a great deal. 

But before we get into all of that, Stoker centers its story on India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska).  India’a father has just passed, leaving India with her mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman), with whom she doesn’t have the greatest of relationships.  It’s only after the funeral for her father that she learns of her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode).  And Charlie has a little surprise, he’s going to be staying with them for a while…yay!  But Charlie’s presence brings a bit of unease to everyone except Evelyn and India, well India is kinda creeped out by him, but is also intrigued by Charlie’s sophisticated yet sexual ways. 

Charlie is also intrigued by India and is always around, creepily so.  And as their relationship becomes closer, despite India’s reservations about Charlie and his sudden presence, she feels a weird connection to him.  This doesn’t sit well with Evelyn, who also has a weird unhealthy relationship with Charlie.  Oh, and there is the matter of the weird/murderous happenings that are a foot at the Stoker household.  All happening after Charlie arrives.  Coincidence?  Maybe…

But where Stoker succeeds in building its story, either through the arcs of the screenplay or through Park’s imagery, it also fails at building any tension or proper intrigue that this type of story commands.   The relationship between Charlie and India and Charlie and Evelyn, just doesn’t reach the level of sexual taboo that it needs to reach.  It’s all there on the surface, but it almost seems like Miller was afraid to really take the characters further into what I like to call f**ked up territory.   Just go there man, it’ll be okay.

Stoker also gives all three main actors great roles and they play each character to the fullest.  Kidman though, seems a little wasted as the story shifts its focus to India and Charlie and again, Miller can’t decide how Kidman’s character needs to function within the story.  But Kidman gives it her all.

So in the end, this wasn’t the great film I was hoping for, but it has just enough good elements to make me give its shortcomings a pass.  I will continue to expect great things from Chan-wook Park and I don’t have any doubt he’ll continue to deliver.  I just hope I see his name more often in the written by column,  it can only be a good thing when that happens.

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